The Mare and Foal Sanctuary has launched a new equine-assisted wellbeing programme for women and girls.

Funded by Sport England as part of the This Girl Can campaign, the course for those aged 16 and over will take place at the charity’s Equestrian and Education Centre near Newton Abbot.

Exercise with Equines will involve up to 36 women and girls spending time outdoors learning the basics of horse care and working with rescued horses and ponies who have all been specially picked to work with people.

The equines come from a range of backgrounds, but all enjoy spending time with humans. Both people and horses are supported in the sessions by members of staff dedicated to their wellbeing.

“Although many women are active in equestrian sports already, we wanted to attract women and girls who may never have had the opportunity to interact with equines before and introduce them to the physical and mental benefits,” said Dawn Neil, Head of Education at the Mare and Foal Sanctuary.

“Since Covid, many people have struggled with their mental wellbeing and are less active than they used to be. We can offer a safe, supportive space that allows participants to recharge mentally whilst also being active.”

Each session involves physical activities which help to care for the rescued horses and ponies. The women and girls will learn about basic stable and field management, grooming and filling hay nets.

Sessions also include focused time working with the rescued horses and ponies through gentle activity supported by an accredited professional coach. This might involve in-hand walks around the site, basic leading and agility work or long reining in the indoor arena.

“Benefits of this kind of physical activity include improved heart and lung strength as well as better posture, balance, co-ordination, flexibility and muscle tone,” said a spokesman for the charity.

“Being active in this way can also be a perfect pick-me-up, putting a smile back on the face and lifting the mood. Being outdoors is proven to reduce stress and anxiety and gives us more energy to put back into life.”

Sport England supports national goals around increasing physical movement among under-represented groups as well as helping people return to activity after lockdown.

The sessions will run in blocks of six weeks until October 2022.

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